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Everyone Brave is Forgiven Paperback – March 7, 2017
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An Amazon Best Book of May 2016: We’ve been wondering lately: What is the secret sauce that makes novels like Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See and Kristin Hannah’s The Nightingale so popular, stories set against the backdrop of WWII? Whatever it is, it made me approach Chris Cleave’s Everyone Brave is Forgiven with a particularly wary eye. Sure, it’s got all of the ingredients—heroes and heroines who are flawed yet admirable. Check! A love story that manages to be poignant without being precious. Check! It even has cover art that is, as an astute colleague put it, a little cartoonish but appealingly “Disney-London.” If you’re a terrible cook like me, however, you know that you can have all of the right ingredients and still concoct something utterly inedible. But this couldn’t be farther from the case with ‘Brave,’ which was inspired by love letters that Cleave unearthed from his grandparents. The non-love story aspects of this novel are just as compelling, and add a layer of gravitas to a story that could easily slip into “sudsy” territory. These parts provide a chilling reminder that it wasn’t just the Jews who were marginalized and punished during WWII, but black children, poor children, and the otherwise “different” or disenfranchised. Moreover, through the character of Mary North, ‘Brave’ emphasizes the importance of challenging injustices. This timeless message is another key ingredient in what is sure to be another beloved (WWII) novel. --Erin Kodicek --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Praise for" Little Bee"
"A raw look at vulnerability, accountability and survival." "--Chatelaine"
"An immensely readable and moving second novel. . . . Cleave uses his emotionally charged narrative to challenge his readers' conceptions of civility, of ethical choice . . . The character and voice of Little Bee reveal Cleave at his finest. . . . An affecting story of human triumph." "--The New York Times Book Review"
"Cleave has a Zola-esque ability to write big and deeply. . . . [He] makes the reader think about political issues and care about his characters." "--Calgary Herald"
"Enthralling." "--The Globe and Mail""
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Top customer reviews
And life toddles along nicely for her at first. She gets a job and likes the job. She even gets a man and likes the man. But things start going badly soon after. To put it succinctly, Everyone Brave Is Forgiven, at its core, is a love story, but oh dear Lord, there will be a lot of suffering for that happy ending. Prepare yourself.
Ironically, while I ended up enjoying this book, it took me a long 50 pages to really get into it. Initially, I found myself putting the book down about every four pages because it irritated me so very much. Mary's exhausting (borderline unrealistic) optimism coupled with author Cleave's "Look what I can do!" verbosity was just too much. There's a fine line between being descriptive and being a wordsmith show-off. Cleave can paint a pretty word picture, but sometimes it distracts from the real story. There were moments when I really wanted Cleave to descend from his Word Throne and just talk to me like a commoner already. Ugh.
But after that 50-page mark, something changed for me. It might have been that I grew accustomed to Cleave's writing style, or maybe it was that Mary and Alistair finally meet and experience the CONNECTION they aren't supposed to, but, suddenly things start getting good. The story picks up and digs in. The characters come to life. They're funny! And the back-and-forth between them is witty and truly entertaining. I found myself relating to these people finally, empathizing with and understanding them. I genuinely started to care. And the rest of the book is so darn good.
The beginning of the story may have been a chore to get through, but, wow, I ended up LOVING this story. The complexity, the depth, the sadness, and--dare I say?--even the writing, all combined to create a beautiful novel. I'm so glad I pushed past those first few pages, because Everyone Brave Is Forgiven is an absolute gem.
The bulk of the book delves into the darkness of enduring air raids, fighting in the war, dealing with grief and guilt, as well as issues of race and class. How does one stay true to who they are and their ideals during such trying times? Characters cling to what they can to get them through, survive, and continue living, no matter how heavy the burden and despite random death and destruction.
The experience of reading this book reminds of having the stomach bug, and when you come out the other side you realize how beautiful it is to have a sip of water, that the socialized world is a mere illusion, that the simple things in life are more than enough. And so there is light at the conclusion of the book. The characters emerge from their trials scarred, yet finding the strength to carry on and begin again.
While it was enjoyable, the ending seemed a bit anticlimactic and unnecessarily ambiguous. I would have liked to know what happened to the jam, seems to me that this metaphor was just dropped, or perhaps I missed the point.